Archive for the Rio de Janeiro Category

The boy in Ipanema

Posted in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro on October 31, 2011 by gannet39

Ipanema beachJust three nights in Rio, wish it could have been longer, what an amazing city! The coastal neighbourhoods are crammed between soaring tree-covered hills and mountains on the one side and the sea on the other. There are miles of long white-sand beaches with enough room for everyone, and everyone is there; rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight. I’m not saying there isn’t prejudice but they seem to have got it right more than anyone else.


Day 2 125

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I stayed in Ipanema at the Hostel Bonita. It’s nice enough with simple clean rooms (and dorms), friendly staff, a basic breakfast and just two streets away from the beach. They have a sister hostel up the road but I chose this one because it’s near the metro station for town and also because the famous Bossa Nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim lived here for a few years in the sixties. His tune ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ has the distinction of being the most recorded song in musical history.

Breakfast at CafeinaI arrived at about 8 in the morning, well before check-in, so I went round the corner to Cafeina for breakfast. They had several variations on the menu but I went for the ‘Natural’, consisting of a flat white, granola and yogurt, two kinds of bread with two kinds of cheese, smoked turkey breast, butter, jam, honey, orange juice and half a papaya, phew!

Orange peelChristophenesLinguica sausageSardinesRed mangoYams and sweet potatoesPassion fruitChilli stallAfter this I went to the food market in Placa General Osorio for a nosey. Most of the produce was familiar, pretty much what you’d get in a European market or international store.

There were a few South American fruits and vegetables that I couldn’t identify though. Any ideas what some of these are?

NopeMaybe maniocNo ideaCow peas perhaps

One of the stall holders persuaded me to buy a few strawberries and a Custard Apple by pushing free samples into my hand. They tasted amazing so how could I say no? 

Cheese pastyDraining a coconutI also had a Pasteis, a deep-fried filled pasty, in this case filled with cheese, which I had with a glass of freshly poured coconut milk.

Butt cakeThere are lots of Confeitarias or cake shops all over town, which is a great Portuguese tradition, but which also showed some Italian influences like pizza and foccacia.  I’d really like to sink my teeth into this cake.

The WallpaperIn the evening I had my first Caiparinha and a cocktail called ‘The Wallpaper’ at Astor, a posh bar next to Ipanema beach where you can sit outside (if you get there early) and watch the sea.

For dinner I went to Brasileirinho, a small rustic restaurant with traditional decor at 10 Rua Jangadeiros. It’s a recommended place to eat Feijoada, the Brazilian national dish, basically a pork stew made from black beans and different parts of the pig.

BatidaThe aperitif for this is usually a Caiparinha but I was given a Batida, also made with Cachaca (sugar cane rum) but with the addition of various fruit juices. This time it came in a small shot glass and seemed essentially to be half Cachaca and half lime juice, ie strong and sour just how I like it.

Caldinho de FeijaoThe first stage of Feijoada is a small bowl of Caldinho de Feijao, a thick soup made from the black beans, which should come with a side dish of pickled chillies to perk it up.

Feijoada completaFor the main event the meat and the beans are served in separate dishes. Originally it was a slave dish and as they were only given the offal to eat, ear, tongue and trotters can all feature. I wasn’t in the mood on this occasion so I stuck with the less offaly option which had fresh beef, pork jerky, tail, two types of sausage and some other things I couldn’t identify.

Kale and maniocFarofaOther sides are traditionally a portion of Farofa (fried manioc flour) for sprinkling over the stew, as well as kale fried with garlic, fried manioc root, white rice and pork scratchings. You also get a plate of sliced orange which helps to digest it all apparently. Together this would have been enough for four people but I gave it my best shot and ate about a third!

MeatScratchingsThe dish originally comes from the Portuguese who like to mix several ingredients in their stews. The manioc (aka cassava) element comes from the local Indians and the spices are an African influence. So a true fusion dish, unique to Brazil.

Cheese with Guava jamFor dessert I had some white soft cheese with Goiabada (Guava) jam which was delicious but I couldn’t find room to finish it (B).

DomecqWith this a glass of Domecq which seemed to be a kind of local cognac (conhaque) but with a spiced flavour reminiscent of vanilla, which is just wrong in my book, avoid (D).

Forte de CopacabanaThe next day I hired a bike and took the cycle path along the beaches for several hours. After riding along the waterfront in Ipanema my first stop was the Forte de Copacabana, an old fort on a strategic promontory between the two famous beaches.

Big gunYou have to pay 4 reals to get in which gets  you access to the military museum (I gave it a miss) but I was there to go to Confiteria Colombo, a branch of the famous Belle Epoque cafe in town (Rua Dias Gonçalves, in the Centro). It’s in a pleasant spot where you can sit outside and get a great view of Copacabana.

Beer and a tartBohemiaI had a Tarte di Camarao (prawn pastry) and a cold bottle of Bohemia beer to wash it down.

Brazilian beer is pretty good, Bohemia was my favourite bottle and Brahma is ok too. The name for draught beer is Chopp (pronounced ‘shop’).

ChoppDevassaDevassa is a chain of bars you will see all over town that brews its own Chopp on the premises. They have about six varieties including an IPA. I went to the one at 416 Rua Prudente de Moraes for a glass of Serara, a wheatbeer. It was very good but cost about £4 for a small glass. And that’s the main downside about coming here, it’s really pricey!

Graf vanGraf van2Ipanema graf1Ipanema graf2Ipanema graf3Ipanema graf4


Leblon Bar Crawl

Posted in Leblon with tags , , , on October 29, 2011 by gannet39

BracaranseLeblon neighbours Ipanema to the West and seems to be where most of the drinking holes are.  I started off at Bracaranse (85B Rua José Linhares); a buzzing neighbourhood bar with a comfortable well-worn feel.

Bolinhas in BracaranseThe Bolinhas de Bacalau (deep fried balls of salt cod) are reputed to be some of the best in town and I couldn’t disagree (A).

The selectionAfter this I headed to Acadamia da Cachaca round the corner at 26 Rua Conde de Bernadotte. They claim to have over 100 varieties of the sugar cane rum.

Cachaca varies from normal rum in that it’s made from fresh sugar cane that is fermented and distilled whereas other rums are made from molasses, a by product from making sugar. it was banned in Brazil for many years and it has over 700 other names as inventive Brazilian home distillers to deceive the authorities! Now Brazil produces 1.3 billion litres of it every year.

Caiparinha ProvidenciaI started with a Caipirinha Providencia; made with brown sugar rather than the usual white which gave it a pretty murky appearance, but it tasted pretty good (B). They have lots of other unusual combinations too like orange and ginger, passion fruit or honey, as well as Caipiroskas which are made with vodka instead of Cachaca.

Pitanga BatidaAfter this a Batida made with Pitanga, which was described as a Brazilian cherry but tasted quite differently, in a good way (B).

JacutingaFollowing on from this a ‘dose’ (shot) of matured Pitu Gold, which smelt sublime (A). I followed this with a 16-year-old Jacutinga, one of the oldest ‘maturadas’ on the menu, which again had a great nose  (A). Most of the choices were between £2 and £6 a shot but there were some matured Cachacas that were as much as £15!

You can also buy whole bottles to take away. For the record the most expensive (and best?) were the Piragibana (225 reals a bottle), Gosto Requintado Mundial (260 reals), Anisio Santiago (265), Armazem Viera Oni (320) and the Germana Heritage (395).

Zona sul SupermarketJust down the road (290 Rua Dias Ferreira) there is the flagship branch of Zona Sul supermarket. If you want to buy some Brazilian ingredients to take home (eg special sugar for making Capirinhias), this is the place to come. They were open at midnight when I was passing.

Bar VelosoI had one final Caipirinha in Bar Veloso on Rua Aristides Espinola (corner with Avenida General San Martin). It was buzzing when I was there with a smart young crowd. It takes its name from the original bar (now called Garota de Ipanema at 49 Rua Vinicius de Moraes) where Carlos Jobim wrote the lyrics for his most famous song.

Flamengo & Cocovado

Posted in Brazil, Flamengo & Cocovado, Rio de Janeiro on October 29, 2011 by gannet39

One day I'll fly away
You can’t really go to Rio and not go up the Cocovado to see the huge iconic statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) which looks out over the city.hand of God

It’s the biggest Art Deco statue in the world but surprisingly only the fifth biggest statue of Jesus.


Ipanema lakeSugarloaf MountainMake sure you go on a clear day because the views in all directions are amazing. It was a bit hazy when I went but I could still nearly see my house.

TicketYou can drive up in a van but I took the old cog train (first electrified train in South America) to the top. It runs every half hour and costs about 40 reals.

Acai with a view on the sideThere’s a cafe under the statue where I had an iced smoothie made from Acai, a delicious Amazonian jungle berry, while taking in the stunning view of Ipanema below. It can be pretty busy up on the belvedere but it really is worth all the time and effort.

BelmonteBelmonte interiorAfter coming down the mountain I got a cab to Belmonte (300 Praia de Flamengo) in Flamengo which is a classic old Bodeca (Brazilian bar with open sides). It’s a succesful chain now but this is the original.


I had some great Bolinhas de Bacalau and a Gilo, a fruit looking like a stubby courgette but tasting a bit like marrow.

Cod ball

It was pretty good with some good Portuguese olive oil and a cold glass of Chopp (draught beer).

Nice oil
After these starters I went round the corner to Cafe Lamas (18A Rua Marques de Abrantes), one of the oldest restaurants in Rio (since 1874) and historically frequented by presidents, bankers, writers and poets.

Cafe Lamas

It looks like a bar from the front but go inside and there’s a huge dining room in the back. It’s definitely seen better days but keeps up a good pretence of being posh with waiters in white tunics and gold buttons attending you silver-service style. My guys were very nice and friendly and looked after me very well.

Linguica Frita a la BrasileiraI had Linguica a la Brasileira, with a side order of Batatas Fritas, essentially sausage and chips but also with a portion of manioc flour fried with more, smaller chunks of sausage. The sausage tasted very North European and went very well with the kind of mild mustard they have up there (B+) although the chips were pretty average.

Delicia do LamasTo finish, a decadent dessert called Delicas do Lamas, a chocolate parkin topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce and Chantilly.

Cachaca maturadoOn the side a Cachaca Maturada, wood aged sugar cane rum (B).

Flamengo is the oldest neighbourhood in Rio and is said to be the site of the first Portuguese-built house. It was once the posh area but became dilapidated when the tunnel to Copacabana was built and all the middle classes moved to Zona Sul in the south of the city. It’s a pretty nice area to walk around if you like old architecture.

Bike Ride to Urca

Posted in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Urca on October 29, 2011 by gannet39

CopacabanaOn my bike ride I went past Copacabana to Urca, a small pretty neighbourhood with a village feel under the famous Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s quite a peaceful place as its located on another promontory and separated from the rest of the city.

Urca harbourFor lunch I went to Bar Urca at 205 Rua Candiado Gaffre. In the restaurant you can sit at the window and look out over the small bay. It was full at lunchtime so it’s probably an idea to book ahead if you can (I don’t have the number sorry).

A Belle MeurnierThe menu is European so I had the ‘A Belle Meurnier’; grilled Sole with a butter sauce with prawns and mushrooms, and some delicious boiled spuds and white rice.

The bar is a nice place to come in the evening too as you can sit outside on the wall by the sea with your drink and take in the local atmosphere.

Lunch in Lapa Land

Posted in Brazil, Lapa, Rio de Janeiro on October 29, 2011 by gannet39

Only had few hours before my flight so took the train up to Cinelandia in the centre and walked about 10 minutes to Lapa.

LapaLapa is one of the oldest neighbourhoods and has as old Roman style aqueduct running through it dating from before 1750. It no longer holds water but instead carries the ‘bonde’, an old tram which would have been a fun ride if I’d had more time.

The area is run down and a bit edgy but stick to the main streets where there are lots of people and you should be ok.

Nova CapellaNova Capella interiorI had lunch at Novel Capel, another old-school dining room with waiters in white tunics. Apparently they are famous for their bad tempers but mine were fine. The restaurant is one large room with seating for about 80 (it was packed and noisy when I went) and the decor doesn’t seem to have been renovated since it opened in 1967.

CabritoI went for the house special of Cabrito (roast goat) which came with roast potatoes and broccoli rice, a new concept for me. It was ok (B) but nothing special and the portions were too big for me to finish, as usual.

Cab Sauv MerlotWith this a half bottle of Brazilian Cab Sauv Merlot (Miolo ‘Selecao’ 2009), my first taste of Brazilian wine. It was drinkable (C) but not something I would get again. Chilean and Argentinian labels dominated the wine list. With a beer and a water it cost me the equivalent of about £40, yikes! All in all prices are pretty expensive in Rio, much more than I expected. Don’t expect to eat and drink cheaply and well.

Stairs 1Stairs 2Stairs 3Stairs 4Stairs 5Stairs 6My main reason for coming here was to see the Escadaria Selaron (thanks for the tip Kat),  a stairway going up the hill to Santa Teresa, which has been decorated in multi-coloured tiles by the Chilean artist Selaron as his personal tribute to the Brazilian people.

Tile 1Tile 2Tile 3Tile 4Tile 5Tile 6Tile 7Tile 9Tile 12Tile 20Tile 11Tile 13Tile 16Tile 14Tile 15Tile 18Tile 19Visitors from all over the world bring him tiles to add to the ever-expanding instillation which was started in 2000.

The artist is there most mornings so you can meet him and have a chat.  2013 update: very sadly Selaron has since died in mysterious circumstances. To my knowledge even now we still don’t know the cause of death.



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